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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.547241

Title: Ways of knowing compassion: How do we come to know, understand, and measure compassion when we see it? Provisionally accepted The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon. Notify me

 Jennifer S. Mascaro1*, Marianne P. Florian2,  Marcia J. Ash3, Patricia K. Palmer4,  Tyralynn Frazier5,  Paul Condon6 and Charles L. Raison7
  • 1Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Emory University, United States
  • 2Department of Religion, Emory University, United States
  • 3Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, United States
  • 4Department of Spiritual Health, Emory University, United States
  • 5Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics, Emory University, United States
  • 6Department of Psychology, Southern Oregon University, United States
  • 7School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Over the last decade, empirical research on compassion has burgeoned in the biomedical, clinical, translational, and foundational sciences. Increasingly sophisticated understandings and measures of compassion continue to emerge from the abundance of multi- and cross-disciplinary studies. Naturally, the diversity of research methods and theoretical frameworks employed presents a significant challenge to consensus and synthesis of this knowledge. To bring the empirical findings of separate and sometimes siloed disciplines into conversation with one another requires an examination of their disparate assumptions about what compassion is and how it can be known. Here, we present an integrated theoretical review of methodologies used in the empirical study of compassion. Our goal is to highlight the distinguishing features of each of these ways of knowing compassion, as well as the strengths and limitations of applying them to specific research questions. We hope this will provide useful tools for selecting methods that are tailored to explicit objectives (methods matching), taking advantage of methodological complementarity across disciplines (methods-mixing), and incorporating the empirical study of compassion into fields in which it may be missing.

Keywords: compassion, Empathy, Altruism, methods, self-report, qualitative research, Behavior, physiological, Phenomenology, Compassion Meditation 2

Received: 30 Mar 2020; Accepted: 28 Aug 2020.

Copyright: © 2020 Mascaro, Florian, Ash, Palmer, Frazier, Condon and Raison. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Jennifer S. Mascaro, Emory University, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Atlanta, United States,